Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Putting Spinners On Things

Two things:

1. I wrote to the Paw Sox today asking if they knew the other team in the Futures Would-Be Doubleheader. They answers promptly and succinctly: "It will be Lowell." Okay, then. I guess I have to believe that, even though Lowell and the Red Sox have yet to mention it, and Lowell is hyping a 38-game season ticket plan which includes a game that day in Lowell. So I guess it's Pawtucket vs. Buffalo, and Lowell vs. Hudson Valley. (If the person who answers the general e-mail for the Paw Sox knows what they're talking about.)

2. On New Year's Eve, we were tuned to a channel that played Cee Lo Green's live rendition of "Imagine," about two minutes before midnight in Times Square. I'm fairly down with CLG and have had that "Fuck You" song stuck in my head for about a year and a half. Compared to today's pop star alternatives, I was glad that he was the one singing that song. I'm not a Beatles guy, but I love what Lennon stood for, and I love the lyrics to "Imagine." (He did things in his personal life I wouldn't do, like doing drugs and cheating on his wife but I'm not talking about that stuff.) As the pop-culture news should have told you by now, though, Cee Lo decided he was going to pull a Ronald Reagan and take someone else's art and alter it to make it mean the exact opposite of what it says. John Lennon imagined no religion. Cee Lo Green imagines ALL religions. Which one need not imagine, because they're already there, necessitating some to imagine them not being there. Man, was I pissed. And just at that happy happy joy joy moment when the ball's a-dropping and The Twilight Zone's a-playing, too.

Instead of writing a profanity-laced tirade to you my readers...I wrote one to some friends. And now this is the level-headed me telling you about it. I know Cee had good intentions here. I know he meant that we should love everybody regardless of faith and I agree with him (though I include "or lack of faith" and I would even if I was religious). And if he wants to write a song that says that, he should go and do it. But this is someone else's song, and whether anybody likes it or not, its writer is talking about how he feels we would all be better off without borders, materialism, war, and, religion. If you have a problem with that, or are somehow confused about the meaning of a very straightforward lyric, you might want to sing a different song!

I'm not saying he shouldn't be allowed to do what he did. I'm saying I'm pissed at him.

I'm not saying we should judge people based on which religion they practice. I'm saying "Imagine" is not about that at all.


For the record, I think the song is pure bullocks. It's hard to take seriously a guy who, among other things, left England because of its tax laws and lived in the Dakota celebrating the idea of no possessions. For a guy who sings about a "brotherhood of man," one would hope he wouldn't emotionally abandon his own wife and son, to say nothing of how he treated his second one. Nothing worth dying for, nothing that is loved enough to matter? Like many ideas, Lennon's is perfect abstractly but in reality it sounds actually worse than what we've got.

So when I hear people upset over changing one line's meaning from, "I wish everyone would believe like me" to "everyone can believe what they want," I have to laugh because it might be the only line in the song that wasn't total bullshit.

Liam, Summa Contra
Doesn't really matter to me about the person that wrote it, just the lyrics themselves. And as for it being abstract, that's why it's called Imagine, I think.
"Doesn't really matter to me about the person that wrote it, just the lyrics themselves."

But as you wrote, "John Lennon imagined no religion." Well, Cee Lo imagines all of them. I don't see how he's changing the basic intention of the song. That being that people should get along.

"And as for it being abstract, that's why it's called Imagine, I think."

Ah, but there's the rub. As the lyrics are abstract, why not hypothesize a world where "all religions true?"

You seem more upset about the idea that Green wants people to get along by letting others believe what they want to because you'd rather they get along by believing what you want them to.

Liam, Summa Contra
That's why I said he should make his own song saying that, instead of changing someone else's to reflect his opinion. (which completely ignores people like me who don't practice any religion)
"That's why I said he should make his own song saying that, instead of changing someone else's to reflect his opinion."

The idea of interpreting another's songs and making alterations to fit one's worldview is nothing new.

Are you upset that Aretha Franklin covered Otis Redding's "Respect," which completely changes the meaning and context of the lyrics when sung from a woman's point of view? Should she have written her own song instead of changing his?

Of course, the irony is that most people aren't even aware that Aretha's version is the cover, and with good reason.

<<(which completely ignores people like me who don't practice any religion)>>

As opposed to the original lyrics, which are condescending and insulting towards people like me who do?

I'm not offended by Lennon's version, I'm just wondering why so serious about Cee Lo's?

Liam, Summa Contra
A combination of all these things. That he had the nerve to ask us to "imagine" something that's already there, further rubbing in our faces that it is there. That he was asked/paid to play a song and deceived everybody by purposely doing it wrong. (The Doors were at least going against the Sullivan producers' request ON THE SIDE OF integrity.)
"That he had the nerve to ask us to "imagine" something that's already there"

I'm not following this point. Saying, "imagine all religion's true" is not the same thing as, "Imagine a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered..." Lennon's lyrics are that people need to believe just like him, or they're part of the problem. Cee Lo's offers that people believe what they want, and everyone gets along. I'd much rather live in the latter world.

"further rubbing in our faces that it is there."

How is a plea for tolerance "rubbing" anything in one's face? No offense, but I go to church, and I don't think I'm nearly as consumed by what other people do on Sunday morning as you are.

"That he was asked/paid to play a song and deceived everybody by purposely doing it wrong. (The Doors were at least going against the Sullivan producers' request ON THE SIDE OF integrity."

Cee Lo's comment on the issue is this: "I was trying to say a world were u could believe what u wanted that's all." I don't see how it takes a lack of integrity to say, "I like this song, but the idea of people only believing what one person wants? I'd rather they made up their own minds" sounds more like he's against fascism than for it.

When Sting covered Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" at the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame concert a few years ago, he changed some of the overtly Christian lyrics. I didn't get offended, did you? I didn't care because the spirit of Mayfield's ideas weren't changed, and if he wanted to interpret it from his own point of view, why not? As Yoko Ono tweeted: "Imagining Peace -- that's something that we can all do together --even when we have different opinions about so many things"

Liam, Summa Contra
Don't know what else to tell ya
As this is your blog, you should have the last word. From April 30th, 2010, just some thoughts to chew on...

"The whole theory behind hip-hop (and most other things in life, essentially) is using bits and pieces of what's already there and making it you. And that's a beautiful thing, as long as you're accomplishing that last part."

Liam, Summa Contra
And when he's creating his own art, he should do that. But if I want "Grandma was Awesome" played at my grandma's funeral, and they find a version called "Grandma was an A-hole," I'd be pretty pissed.
I know I said last word but I forgot to ask.

You never answered my question about Otis Redding. I wasn't "just asking" but I'm curious about your answer. His song is about a man getting respect from his family when he comes home from work. Aretha's is about a woman asking a man to respect her as a person. Two different perspectives, two different meanings. Should Aretha have not performed his song, but written her own? Do you value the song less, more, neither knowing this? Honestly, most people I talk to that I've told about the song's origins don't blink when I tell them that it's origins.

Music, and you've mentioned being in a band, is about the subjective interpretation of material. One of the reason genres have "standards" is it allows musicians to try their hand at performing a particular piece of music. Cee Lo was creating his own art because *he* is the one performing it. Had he changed Lennon's version, I get the outrage. But it's his version, and as a performer, he has the right to tempo, arrangement, phrasing, etc.

So much music, popular and otherwise, has arisen because people have made changes to material they're performing. If you really think that's anathema, there's a whole lot of music you'll have to toss out, especially with hip hop, where so many songs based their hooks around others' music.
What's the difference between "doing someone else's version" and "doing your own version"? I thought Cee Lo WAS doing Lennon's version. In that case, like you said, you would understand my outrage.

I just don't think any of the stuff you're talking about is what went on in this case. It was Green attempting to do something, and failing because he thought two things were synonymous that aren't. If it was the other way around, and I was asked to do a song that said "I love God"--and here's the key--AT A RELIGIOUS CONCERT, well yeah, I'd love to change it to "There's no God" (and I gladly would do that and put it on a record), but instead I just wouldn't play at all at that concert. Now I'm not saying the Times Square crowd is majority atheist, I'm sure most of those people ARE religious, but they were given "Imagine," as is the tradition, but the person who was paid to give it to them didn't do his job. He got an F. He's fired. And if the reason he changed it was that he has religion in his life, or decided it was more palatable to say something that would go over better, well that's even worse than the general deception as it goes against everything rock 'n' roll and art stands for.

You're also standing up for the majority side, and have to realize that the non-oppressed always try to spin it so that they appear oppressed, as in "how come black people can make fun of white people but we poor white people can't make fun of them?" and "affirmative action is a double standard," which ignores centuries of history. We atheists have like one fuckin' song that the mainstream has somehow allowed to seep through the cracks, and when they send the dude out to play it for everybody, he changes it to make it non-atheist! I'm sorry that now 100% of mainstream songs are non-atheist instead of 99.99999 99999 9999%. Throw us a freakin' bone here.

You know what I compare this to? While writing this, I was watching an episode of the Metal Evolution documentary, the "grunge" one. And as soon as they started showing Creed it hit me--that whole thing is the same as this thing only on a larger scale! Creed looked at something with integrity, and said, We can do something that looks like that. And so they did the same thing, exposing themselves as copycats, while also being a Jesus-ified version. And it's like, Wait a minute, I thought I was buying a ticket to a rock 'n' roll show here....I guess "Christian rock" or "Christian punk" would be the same thing. "Hey, I love that music, but I love Jesus, so I'll simply insert Jesus in there and everything will be fine." Cee Lo did that in five seconds. Once again, you're allowed to do this. But eff you if you do.
This comment has been removed by the author.
Liam initially hit on what I was thinking, that Lennon was pretty big on possessions. He actually owned five apartments in the Dakota!! And he wrote songs making fun of other people's beliefs. Lennon promoted peace, so that is good, but Imagine always struck me as pretty hypocritical. And too much like elevator muzak for my tastes. I'll take Harrison when it comes to talking about religious (or not) by a Beatle, pls.
I did bring up in the original post that it wasn't about Lennon as a person but rather just the lyrics to that song. A lot of stuff people stand behind comes from people who weren't perfect. e.g. MLK hit his wife or something, Gandhi was anti-black people, the Red Sox were racist, etc.
And also, he didn't say "imagine no possessions, for I myself have none," he's just asking everybody to *imagine* a different way since our current way has really fucked things up. As Maynard of Tool sang, "I can't imagine why you wouldn't welcome any change, my friend." (Was referring to Los Angeles being washed into the sea--but for many of the same reasons why Lennon was imagining change.)

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